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Central Intelligence (2016)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/27/2016

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/27/2016

Although the word is often labeled as negative, we all see stereotypes in our daily lives. We can't help it -- we base our future predictions on things which we've experienced in the past. In some ways, this can help us get through the day. But, this can also lead to making assumptions about things. For example, I am very guilty of assuming that most Hollywood buddy comedies are by-the-book, formula products which show originality. Why do I think this? Because it's usually true. That's why when a movie which wants to think outside of the box, even just a little bit, comes along, it can be truly attention-grabbing. That was my response to the decidedly off-kilter action-comedy Central Intelligence.

Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) was a star in high-school. Going by the nickname "The Golden Jet", he was a track star, prom king, and voted "Most Likely To Succeed". In contrast, Robbie Whierdicht (Dwayne Johnson) was an overweight outcast, who was teased by many student, but not Calvin. Twenty years later, Calvin has a mundane job as an accountant and his marriage to high-school sweetheart Maggie (Danielle Nicolet) isn't going great. Calvin receives a Facebook friend request from someone named Bob Stone, who states that he is in town for their high school reunion and would like to meet. Calvin soon realizes that Bob is a grown-up Robbie -- tall, muscle-bound, and extremely weird. Although the two barely spoke in school, Bob acts as if they are best friends and asks Calvin to help him with an international bank account. Calvin soon learns that Bob is actually a CIA agent and that he's being pursued by forces from several sides. Can Calvin trust this seemingly crazy man?

Astute film fans have no doubt seen instances where a movie will have a diverse marketing campaign. Maybe some of the ads focus on the story. Maybe some of them highlight the stars. The strategy is to attract as many filmgoers as possible. After watching Central Intelligence, I asked my wife if anyone had considered doing multiple advertising strategies for that movie. The trailers which I remember seeing definitely put the spotlight on Hart and Johnson, making them the main attraction. It also showed some funny lines from Hart and some moments of action. Are those things relevant? Of course, they are, but Central Intelligence is so much more than that.

As seen in the ads, on the surface, Central Intelligence appears to be just another action comedy. However, that idea is dispelled only seconds into the movie where we see Robbie dancing in the locker room showers. By using visual effects to put Johnson's face on dancer Sione Kelepi's body, the movie creates a moment of weirdness which sets the tone for the rest of the film. Once Calvin meets Bob, things only get stranger. Bob is a highly sensitive man who loves unicorns and doesn't seem to be quite in-tune with the reality around him. He's always boundlessly cheerful and can't believe that he's getting to spend time with "The Golden Jet". Bob has no fear and has no problem putting Calvin's life in danger, due to the fact that he expects everything to work out OK.

What does all of this mean? It means that Kevin Hart is actually playing the straight man here. Yes, we get the kind of nervous intensity that he's exhibited in things like the Ride Along series and he has some very humorous lines. But, it's Johnson who is playing the "funny" character here. Sure, we've seen him essay comedic roles in the past, but I don't think that I've ever seen him this loose and goofy. Bob Stone is just a big kid, and it's up to Calvin to be the adult in their odd relationship. The result is a movie which isn't afraid to make both actors look very silly, but also throws in some very clever lines as well.

If you look beyond the stars of Central Intelligence, you'll see that it comes from the director of Dodgeball and We're the Millers and was written by two members of the creative team at The Mindy Project. Armed with that knowledge, it's not surprising that we get a movie with is disarmingly funny at times and isn't afraid to reference Sixteen Candles. I feel certain that many fans of both Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson walked away from this movie feeling dismayed and misled. Here's the good news -- Those of you who would normally steer clear of a movie like this for fear that it would be too pedestrian should check it out, as I think that you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Central Intelligence actually has an actor making a cameo say the line that we want them to say on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 27 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain or defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is notable, as the picture is never soft, and the depth works well. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action sequences provide abundant opportunities for impressive surround sound and stereo effects. These scenes are also accompanied by subwoofer action which adds just the right complement.

The set also includes a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a 2160p HD transfer. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no discernible grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic and the impressive sharpness of the image produces fine details and great depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which shows off precision detail, delivering very distinct effects from the rear channels, in which we can pick out individual sounds. I was also impressed by how this track highlights various sounds in each speaker, instead of simply blanketing everything with audio.

The Central Intelligence Blu-ray Disc contains an assortment of extras, which are spread across the Rated and Unrated versions. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director/Co-Writer Rawson Marshall Thurber and Editor Mike Sale. We get ten ALTERNATE SCENES which run about 18 minutes. There are some new moments here, but, as the title implies, most are just altered versions of scenes from the film. "Line-O-Rama" is a 2-minute reel of alternate takes. "Dance Off" (2 minutes) opens with showing us how the visual effects were used to create the young Bob in the opening scene. We then see Johnson dancing with this double. We get a 6-minute GAG REEL. "Couch Time Lapse" (1 minute) takes us on-set to see how some movie magic was done. "Alternate Scenes Unrated" delivers another reel of different scenes which runs 69 minutes. "Line-O-Rama Unrated" (3 minutes) brings us some new different takes. "Gag Reel Unrated" (6 minutes) gives us a few more gaffs.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long